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A symbol of Corsica’s tensions with mainland France dies weeks after falling into a coma following an attack in prison.

Yvan Colonna, a jailed Corsican nationalist who became a symbol of the Mediterranean island’s tensions with mainland France, has died after falling into a coma following an attack by a fellow inmate, according to the French government.

Corsica has a history of separatist violence and the government is set to keep a close eye on any signs of it, just weeks before France’s presidential election.

Violent protests rocked the island after Colonna was strangled by another prisoner in early March.

“The dramatic circumstances in which he was killed are clearly very shocking,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said in an interview with Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. “It’s necessary now to call for calm and for dialogue.”

Mourners peacefully gathered in two Corsican towns to pay respects to Colonna on Monday evening, local media reported.

Demonstrators hold a banner as they take part in a protest on Corsica
Demonstrators hold a banner as they take part in a protest on March 13 [File: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP]

Colonna was serving a life sentence at a prison in the southern French city of Arles for the 1998 murder of Claude Erignac, who as prefect of Corsica embodied the power of the French state on the island.

Corsican protesters clashed with police after the attack on Colonna, prompting an emergency visit by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin who said Paris could discuss autonomy for the island.

Roger Antech, editor-in-chief of newspaper Corse Matin, told FranceInfo radio that he felt the situation would calm down out of respect for Colonna’s family until his burial, but that there was “no guarantee as to what happens afterwards”.

French prosecutors launched a “terrorism” investigation after the attack on Colonna.

“All light must be shed on the sequence of events that led to this unacceptable situation,” Attal said.

Source: Al Jazeera

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